Rainforest

Avatar; indigenous peoples, carbon credits and the rainforest

I’m loving the commentaries that have evolved around Avatar’s themes of exploitation of natural resources, imperialism and biological diversity.

Libertarian blogger Stephen Kinsella argues here that it underscores his viewpoint that the movie demonstrates that property rights are the only way to protect the environment. Interestingly this is the logic of the UN’s REDD carbon trading scheme or to give it its long name, the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. This is based – in theory at least – of forests having assigned carbon values and of local people having property rights over those resources. The “owners” are then rewarded for not chopping down trees.

Such solutions aren’t without their problems though. Aside for the more obvious problems of carbon credits – that they allow the industralised world to delay reducing their own emissions –  Global Witness point out in this report [PDF] that was published last October, this is an untested scheme that may well benefit Africa and South America’s kleptocrat rulers more than it does the environment, or the locals to whom this property has been assigned. Assigning property rights, suggests Global Witness, is part of the process of moving from an environment protected from logging, to a “sustainably managed” forest which allows logging to go ahead.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Ghost Forest by Angela Palmer, Trafalgar Square

Ghost Forest – London from RSA Arts & Ecology on Vimeo.

It’s an amazing achievement, to unlock this space for this kind of exhibit. The crowds I saw were drawn to the sheer strangeness and hugeness of the shapes of the trees, which are supposed to link the ideas of deforestation and climate change. Angela Palmer has done something remarkable in persuading the Mayor’s office to let her use this space for this work. Its scale and ambition makes the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth look rather irrelevant.

But, being honest, I’m not sure it works that well, either as a polemic or as art; I’m not sure it left people convinced. Palmer had originally envisaged the stumps as standing straight up, which would have made it easier to understand them as the leavings of human greed, rather than the lumber they look like. I’m guessing that it simply wasn’t practical to display the stumps like that. And the huge text billboards seemed to be as much about Palmer’s struggle to realise the work, with Antony Gormley saying “the project can’t be done”, as they were about the issue of deforestation and simply added a level of  Fitzcaraldo-in-reverse hubris. (This is like dragging the rainforest to the opera-house rather than vice versa).

When artists create events like this why don’t they let the art speak for itself and instead work closely with an NGO who can make the polemic explicit on site, and far more effectively?

Anyway, please disagree with me.

www.ghostforest.org

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Ghost Forest by Angela Palmer, Trafalgar Square

It’s an amazing achievement, to unlock this space for this kind of exhibit. The crowds I saw were drawn to the sheer strangeness and hugeness of the shapes of the trees, which are supposed to link the ideas of deforestation and climate change. Angela Palmer has done something remarkable in persuading the Mayor’s office to let her use this space for this work. Its scale and ambition makes the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth look rather irrelevant.

But, being honest, I’m not sure it works that well, either as a polemic or as art; I’m not sure it left people convinced. Palmer had originally envisaged the stumps as standing straight up, which would have made it easier to understand them as the leavings of human greed, rather than the lumber they look like. I’m guessing that it simply wasn’t practical to display the stumps like that. And the huge text billboards seemed to be as much about Palmer’s struggle to realise the work, with Antony Gormley saying “the project can’t be done”, as they were about the issue of deforestation and simply added a level of  Fitzcaraldo-in-reverse hubris. (This is like dragging the rainforest to the opera-house rather than vice versa).

When artists create events like this why don’t they let the art speak for itself and instead work closely with an NGO who can make the polemic explicit on site, and far more effectively?

Anyway, please disagree with me.

www.ghostforest.org

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology